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Federal judge rules against restoring 2 Libertarian candidates to Ohio's November ballots


COLUMBUS, Ohio — A federal judge Friday kept two disqualified Libertarian candidates off Ohio's fall ballot.

U.S. District Court Judge Michael Watson rejected arguments by the Libertarian Party of Ohio that Secretary of State Jon Husted acted unconstitutionally in removing gubernatorial candidate Charlie Earl and attorney general candidate Steven Linnabary from the Nov. 4 ballot.

The party argued that Husted, a Republican, disqualified the pair for partisan reasons, which is prohibited.

The judge also said that changing the ballots so late in the process would result in confusion among voters.

"The court finds that there is a significant risk that the interest of the state of Ohio and its voters would suffer by the confusion and disarray that could result from a change to the voting process at this late date," Watson said.

Allen County Elections Director Ken Terry told the court in an affidavit that amending ballots would be cumbersome, time-consuming and costly. Terry said the county's roughly 64,000 paper ballots would have to be sent back to a vendor for re-printing, at an additional cost of $30,400 — nearly twice the $18,000 the county spent to print the first round. Even a rush printing job would take about three weeks, he said.

To amend the ballots, the county's ballot typesetting and tabulation system would also have to be reprogrammed, which costs about $3,000 and mail-in absentee ballots would have to be re-mailed to those who had requested them at a cost of more than $14,000.

The county's total elections budget is between $600,000 and $700,000 a year.

Earl said in an email Friday that he and the state's Libertarian Party are disappointed by the ruling.

"It is unfortunate that the voices of many Ohio citizens have been silenced. It is sad that their choices have been restricted," Earl wrote. "Still, I respect the judgment of the Court and will (be) in consultation with my lawyers (to) weigh my options."

With less than a month until Election Day, more than 49,000 Ohioans have already cast absentee ballots in the battleground state, where five statewide offices are up for grabs.

Husted's office said in court filings that siding with Libertarians would "upend the November general election" that is already underway. Ohio's early voting schedule had been the subject of multiple lawsuits and was most recently postponed from Sept. 30 to Oct. 7.

Associated Press writer Jennifer Smola contributed to this report.

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